Outdoor Encounter encourages exercise, green spaces


Outdoor Encounter encourages exercise, green spaces

Rebecca Wynd wants the residents of South Williamson County to have access to outdoor activities, regardless of their physical abilities.

Rebecca Wynd wants the residents of South Williamson County to have access to outdoor activities, regardless of their physical abilities. To that end, she founded the non-profit Outdoor Encounter in 2008, two years after moving to Spring Hill from Utah.

“My whole family loves being outside and active,” Wynd said, speaking on the grounds of the soon-to-open Mars Petcare and Nutro Company Dog Park and Trails in Thompson’s Station. “We bike, we camp, we do anything we can to stay active.”

Both Wynd’s husband and her daughter Mckayla have been diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, and keeping active is a big part of how they resist the effects of the disease.

“It’s also a big part of where my passion to promote health and wellness comes from,” Wynd said. “Everyone can exercise, and Outdoor Encounter wants to see as many people as possible up and active.”

In its six years of existence, the organization has been very active in opening opportunities for South Williamson residents to bike, hike and shop for healthy food. Outdoor Encounter launched the Thompson’s Station Farmers Market in 2011 as a way to promote healthy food in a natural setting. Market vendors sell locally farmed meats and produce on Wednesdays from 2-6, and on Sundays from 3-6, at the corner of Thompson’s Station Road and Columbia Pike.

After beginning that first summer with just four vendors, the market now regularly features 20-30 different booths. Although business at the market grew year over year through 2013, it has leveled off this year. Wynd said that the recent increase in local farmers’ market options may explain the plateau of Thompson’s Station traffic this summer.

“On the other hand, our own Sunday market may be splitting our usual customers,” Wynd said. “This is our first year to be open on Sundays, and it’s been going well. The word is getting out about the fact that we meet twice a week, and our board is hoping Sunday business will increase.”

The board is made up of five members, who are a huge part of the group’s success.

“The Market is Outdoor Encounter’s only consistent source of income, but we are involved with a variety of projects,” Wynd said. The success of the market allows the organization to pursue many other outdoor opportunities, such as the dog park and trails project, which will have its grand opening in early October.

Initial grading and seeding for the dog’s playing areas began in July and is virtually complete now, having gained approval of both the Thompson’s Station Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Planning Commission.

The park lies just west of Columbia Pike, near Critz Lane in Thompson’s Station. One area will be designated for larger dogs, another for smaller. A natural-surface walking trail will surround the two fenced dog areas, allowing visitors to stroll alone or walk their dogs.

“We’re meeting [Friday] with someone from Henry Drilling,” Wynd said standing in the center of the growing park. “We are hoping to have water access for the dogs, either from a spigot or a water feature within the fenced area. But it’s just exploratory for now.”

The property for the park was donated by the town of Thompson’s Station, and the development and equipment by Mars Petcare US and the Nutro Company.

“Mars is going to throw a huge grand opening for the park,” Wynd said. “We’re very pleased to be partnering with Mars, and this is a big philanthropic outreach for them. We’ll be meeting with them next week to finalize opening plans.”

Unlike many dog parks, the Mars facility will not include any plastic obstacles for the dogs.

“We want it to have a completely natural look,” said Wynd. “It should fit well with the park’s terrain, and the overriding look of the town.”

Thompson’s Station will pave and fence the bridge connecting the park to Columbia Pike, as well as adding an adjacent parking lot for visitors. Town land beside the park is commercially zoned, and town leaders hope eventually to make access to the park even easier once the land is further developed.

Trails from the dog park will eventually connect with other trails nearby in Tollgate, and at Heritage Park and Thompson’s Station Park.

Outdoor Encounter has contributed extensively to the development of trails in Thompson’s Station, and plans exist to connect the trails to those being developed in Spring Hill.

One of the ways the group has worked to include people of all abilities in its vision has been the building and gifting of adaptive bikes. When Outdoor Encounter selects a disabled child to receive a bike, they send physical therapists and nurses to do an analysis of the child to discover how best to design a bike for him or her. The custom bikes cost about $2000 apiece.

“Some of them can use only their legs,” Wynd said, “and others just their hands. We’ve given away two of these special bikes so far, and try to do one every year. Our board member Millie Halvorson has led our efforts to reach out to disabled kids.” Halvorson works as an occupational therapist with Williamson County Schools, and loves to help with Outdoor Encounter. “Without Millie,” said Wynd, “there would be no Outdoor Encounter.”

According to Wynd, the group does not limit itself to any single sport or activity in its quest to get people out in the open.

“We helped to construct four new soccer fields near the Kroger Marketplace in Thompson’s Station,” Wynd said. “We’ve had an agreement so far to allow use only by the Williamson County Soccer Association. But we’re in talks now to expand access further. Our original plan for construction was to connect the fields to the water treatment plan nearby, reusing water for irrigation. Our goal is always to be as environmentally friendly as possible with our projects.”

Several snags with acquiring permits prevented the irrigation system from being laid, but the plan is still being pursued, contingent upon the growth of grass at the fields.

Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at greg@springhillhomepage.com or follow him on Twitter @JinkersonGreg.

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